Govt confirms support for Human Rights Act

The government has reaffirmed its commitment to the Human Rights Act, after disparaging statements from senior Cabinet figures.

Taking over from prime minister Gordon Brown for prime minister’s questions today, leader of the House Harriet Harman said: “We remain proud of the Human Rights Act.”

The comment will be interpreted as a direct retort to justice secretary Jack Straw.

Mr Straw gave an interview earlier this month in which he said the legislation needed to be overhauled.

“There is a sense that it’s a villains’ charter or that it stops terrorists being deported or criminals being properly given publicity,” he told the Daily Mail.

“I am greatly frustrated by this”.

The disparaties between the two senior ministers’ statements indicate a deep conflict in the heart of government about the Act.

The tabloid press hates the legislation and has painted it as a byword for an obsession with criminals’ and terrorists’ rights, rather than those of victims.

This opposition led Tory leader David Cameron to call for Britain to opt-out of the Act and replace with a British bill of rights.

But many figures in the Labour party, and in the Liberal Democrats, welcome the Act as the first and most important piece of human rights legislation in the UK.

For instance, the right to privacy was not held in the UK until the Act came into force.